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Mystery Meat

Maverick's motto may be "Supper + Whiskey," but the restaurant doesn't always deliver on both counts

This second attempt at success is based on "cowboy cuisine," a movement that blossomed in Houston in 1993 with the opening of Robert Del Grande's Rio Ranch. While the novelty has worn off around here, the oxymoron of upscale down-home cuisine is still considered cutting edge in self-described cow towns like Fort Worth and Abilene. The menu at Maverick was modeled after the West Texas version of cowboy cuisine served at the Reata restaurant in Fort Worth, where Maverick's general manager, K.C. Sorber, was once vice president. I am very familiar with this food; in fact I wrote Reata's cookbook, A Cowboy in the Kitchen, with founding chef Grady Spears.

The cowboy cuisine at Reata is bold and spicy with lots of flavor, and the food overflows the plate. Entrées are served with mashed potatoes and gravy, vegetables and tamales, and in all sorts of inspired combinations. One of my favorites is a T-bone steak that comes with two cheese enchiladas on top.

Some items on Maverick's menu such as fried dill pickles with buttermilk dressing, Dr Pepper bone-in pork chop and barbecue green beans are excellent examples of the genre. But most of the menu lacks the bold flavors and generosity of spirit that cowboy cuisine implies.

The Dr Pepper pork chop and fried dill pickles are two of Maverick's better examples of cowboy cuisine.
Troy Fields
The Dr Pepper pork chop and fried dill pickles are two of Maverick's better examples of cowboy cuisine.

Location Info

Map

Hotel Derek

2525 W. Loop S.
Houston, TX 77027

Category: Hotels and Resorts

Region: Greenway Plaza

Details

713-297-4383. Hours: Daily, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

T-bone steak: $36
Shiner Bock tenderloin: $26
Rib eye steak: $24
Fried dill pickles: $6
Dr Pepper pork chop: $19
Creamed spinach: $6
Strip steak: $22
Double fudge bread pudding: $7

Hotel Derek, 2525 West Loop South


On our second visit to Maverick, my date and I were joined by a friend who doesn't eat red meat and her boyfriend, who doesn't get enough of it. He had the 28-ounce T-bone and she ordered grouper with a garlic shrimp butter sauce. The steak was adequate, but the fish was disgustingly mushy. Luckily she ordered creamed spinach on the side -- or so she thought.

Creamed spinach is one of those chophouse classics that seems to go equally well with any kind of grilled meat or fish. It is essentially chopped spinach sautéed with butter and garlic and blended with a flour-based cream sauce (béchamel). Many chefs also add a distinctive spice like nutmeg, fenugreek or anise to give it an extra spark. Unfortunately, what they serve at Maverick isn't recognizable as creamed spinach. It's a bowl of what tastes like garlicky whipping cream with leaves of spinach floating around in it. When you attempt to fish the leaves out, the cream drips all over the place.

My date ordered the 12-ounce strip steak, which came with "potato poblano hash," a miserly spoonful of pepper strips and soggy potatoes. The steak looked to be around a half-inch thick. It was cooked medium well and tasted chewy and dry. She didn't eat half of it. I got the Dr Pepper pork chop with barbecue green beans. The chop was overcooked, but I used the barbecue sauce that came with the beans to moisten each bite. I was quite fond of the beans and thankful that they made it possible to eat the dry pork. By this time, I had despaired of sending food back at Maverick.

Luckily, Maverick had restocked its bar, and we all got our desired cocktails. The booze, along with a dessert called double fudge bread pudding, which tasted like crumbled brownies, comforted those whose dinners were inedible.

When it was over, we sat back and had a look around at the restaurant's new decor, which isn't all that different from the old decor. The Asian minimalism of Ling & Javier has simply been accented with Western-looking artifacts.

I asked my date how she would describe the look. "Cowboy minimalism," she snickered. With its naked steaks, underseasoned entrées and overpriced side dishes, that's not a bad description of the food, either.

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